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Five years ago, Alexandra DeMonaco's husband framed her for insurance fraud and kidnapped their daughter. Finally out of prison, Alex (Lisa Lackey) begins working for the law firm of Hamilton Whitney III (Richard Thomas), hoping to prove her innocence so she can become a lawyer and help others like her. Her idealism inspires Whit, who has become too obsessed with big money-earning cases and not focused enough on helping those in need. But Alex's daughter -- and the $5 million her husband stole -- are still missing.
Rounding out the cast are Patrick Heller (Shaun Benson), an associate at the law firm and former cop; Peggy Tran (Khaira Ledeyo), a paralegal with three graduate degrees; C.J. Leon (Roger R. Cross), former public defender and Alex's parole officer; and Ted Kasselbaum (Mark Hildreth), a private investigator whom Alex hires to find her daughter. David Kaplan (Jason Schombing), the politically focused D.A., is a recurring antagonist and occasional source of help.
Provides examples of:
- Amicably Divorced: Whit and all three of his ex-wives. His third marriage, in particular, split up because he was Married to the Job, not because of any personality conflict.
- Buffy-Speak: In the pilot:
Alex: When I was in prison, I developed a gut for reading people.
Whit: Your prison gut is going to get me disbarred.
- Character Name Alias: Alex's husband hides out under the aliases of famous literary figures, including Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe.
- Also used in "Bet Your Life," where aliases with poets' last names are used for fake beneficiaries in an insurance scam.
- Christmas Episode: "The Wives of Christmas Past."
- Clear My Name: The ongoing plot of the series.
- Courtroom Antics: When a possibly senile court-appointed client won't speak to anyone except through a dummy, Whit calls the dummy to the witness stand.
- Curse Cut Short:
- In the pilot, Alex tells Whit that she "studied [her] a-- butt off" to earn her law degree.
- Alex to Whit again in "Buried Past":
"I could be your bu-- your nonsense detector."
- Cut Himself Shaving: Played with in "Above the Law": When Alex is talking to the crooked police officer responsible for the death of her fiend, she points out the suspicious scratches on his face and asks if he cut himself shaving.
- Diplomatic Impunity: In "Trial by Memory," diplomatic immunity protects a suspect. Oddly, the lawyers don't seem to remember it exists until the suspect invokes it.
- Dirty Cop: In "Above the Law," Alex believes corrupt police officers are behind the death of a friend who just got out of prison.
- Evil Lawyer Joke: In the pilot:
Whit: Alex DeMonaco is the most stubborn, obstinate, pushy, annoying woman I've ever met. She's a bully, she won't listen, and frankly, she irritates the hell out of me. I think she'd make a terrific lawyer.
- Doubles as Self Deprecating Humor.
- Hollywood Law: Alex frequently goes undercover to gather evidence about the opposing side of a case, which usually involves talking to them without their attorney present and without identifying herself as an employee of Whit's law firm. This is completely ignored in most episodes, although she gets in trouble for it once or twice when the plot requires a conflict.
- I'm Not Here to Make Friends: "...I'm here to work" -- said by Alex in the pilot after she gets a job at the law firm and Patrick tries to flirt with her.
- Lost in Transmission: In "Code of Silence," the law firm requests documents about chemical weapons under the Freedom of Information Act. Every word is blacked out except for "a" and "the."
- Never Suicide: No fewer than three episodes involve an apparent suicide that turns out to be murder.
- One-Hour Work Week: Alex's night job at the cleaning company comes across as this before she quits.
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
- Lisa Lackey as Alex occasionally slips into her native Australian accent or various regional U.S. accents (particularly New York City). This is Lampshaded and Justified in the pilot when Alex tells Whit she was an army brat and traveled all over growing up, specifically mentioning Australia, New York, and East LA as places she picked up accents from.
- Also, Peter Wingfield's attempt at an American accent in "Above the Law."
- Pun-Based Title: "Dying to be Thin," in which Alex investigates unsafe diet pills.
- Race Against the Clock: In the finale, the law firm must get important documents signed by 5 p.m.; there's a countdown clock in the corner of the screen.
- Real Song Theme Tune: "Two Trains" by Sue Foley.
- Reverse Psychology: In "Human Trials," the law firm gets around a court order not to release evidence against a drug company by roundaboutly getting the file into the hands of the D.A. and then telling him not to read it.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: When Peggy tells Ted that her car was towed in "The Last to Know," he replies:
Ted: Well, just another reason why I recommend bipedal modes of transportation.
- Ship Tease:
- Ted and Peggy. The writers stick them together for three episodes that make it look like they're starting a relationship, beginning with him teaching her how to rollerblade and ending with her inviting him to a Christmas party at her parents' house. It's later implied that they talk regularly, although not necessarily that they're dating, but they never interact on screen again for the rest of the series, before or after.
- The writers also teased Patrick/Alex in the first few episodes, with him playfully flirting and her playfully rebuffing. Instead of going the usual main couple UST route, however, they dropped it pretty quick and gave the characters more of a friendship dynamic.
- Smart People Wear Glasses:
- Ted Kasselbaum, the resident private investigator and genius computer hacker, wears glasses with blue tinted lenses.
- Peggy, a paralegal with three graduate degrees, also wears glasses.
- Both Alex and Whit use reading glasses.
- Spoiler Title: In one episode, the law firm defends the parents of an adopted Chinese child when his real parents try to regain custody. It turns out that the child is actually Tibetan and the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama. This twist is spoiled by the episode title, "Lama Hunt."
- Suspiciously Similar Song: When Patrick runs in slow-motion down the street to deliver a document on time in "The Closing," a version of the theme from Chariots of Fire plays.
- Title Drop: The title comes from the name of Whit's uncle's memoir -- Just Cause: My Life as a Criminal Lawyer -- mentioned by Alex in the pilot.
- Again at the end of the pilot when Whit, in his letter to the governor, mentions Alex's passion for a "just cause."
- Title Theme Drop: As background music in the first episode.